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Anthropology and Sociology of Modern Day South-East Asia


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2019-2020. A new version with marginal changes will be presented on this page shortly.

Admission requirements

The following categories of student may register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA course “Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology” at Leiden University, including Pre-Master’s students of CA-OS

  • Students enrolled for the Minor CA-OS

  • Students enrolled for BA programmes of the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University

  • Erasmus Exchange students and Study Abroad students expressly admitted to this course

  • Contract-students

See below the registration procedure per category.

Course Description

South-East Asia has been called many things, from a colonial construction to a residual category of the Cold War; an economic miracle without precedent or merely the backyard of its more successful neighbours to the East and the North. This course will focus on the South-East Asian region in its own right dealing with how South-East Asia as a whole and its constituent nations have been imagined and shaped by various actors in present times, from powerful capital to its often porous borders, from dominant ethnicities to those living at the margins, and from local nationalist histories to pan-regional initiatives such as ASEAN. We shall scrutinize ideas of nation, state and citizenship by comparing examples from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, among others.

Topics dealt with in this 12 week course will include labour regimes and social inequalities, the new Asian middle class and its patterns of consumption, techno-nationalist state projects such as state car and telecoms industries, migration, popular religion, cultural heritage tourism, human rights, new sexual identities and the fate of Southeast Asia’s indigenous people in the 21st century.

What is South-East Asia’s place in today’s world, and in the minds of the colourful and widely divergent range of its own communities, people and citizens? While constantly questioning the merits of a comparative approach this course will strongly emphasize the how South-East Asians perceive of their own region, as our weekly sessions will include discussion of essays, poetry and newspaper clipping on current affairs, as well as scholarly analyses of regional experts.

Students should note that besides classes we are planning an evening programme in which we shall screen relevant feature films, documentary films and short films by and about South-East Asian people and nations. The films will be shown with brief introductions and the hope is that they will be followed by a group discussion. The evening film programme will be voluntary.

Time table

Dates and room numbers can be found on our website, under "2e Jaar, Semester 2, Hoorcolleges".

Methods of instruction

10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures 12 × 3 hours (54 sbu)

  • Additional literature study 1050 pages (150 sbu)

  • Four bi-weekly assignments of each 600 words (32 sbu)

  • Review essay 3,000 words (40 sbu)


  • Seven assignments (40 % of the final grade)

  • Active class participation (presence required at at least10 of the 12 lectures);

  • Country report (20 % of the final grade) including a group presentation;

  • Review essay on one of the monographs (40 % of the final grade).

  • Re-takes will be possible for parts of the final grade in accordance with the course syllabus.

See Blackboard for further details.

Exam registration

Students do not need to register for the exam through uSis because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.


  • Registration in Usis for lectures (H) is mandatory for all participants. Students should consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions. Students need not register for examination through uSis because this course has no final examination.

  • Exchange students officially admitted to this course through the Admission Procedure will be registered in Usis by the faculty administrators.

  • Those interested in following this course as a contract student should apply following the procedure described on the website of the Faculty of Social Sciences: English version or Dutch version


Blackboard module will be active about 2 weeks before the start of the course.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Study material

  1. Electronic Reader (for more info see the Blackboard site from mid-January)
  2. A monigraphy to be chosen from:
  • Hau, Caroline S. 2014. The Chinese question: ethnicity, nation, and region in and beyond the Philippines. Singapore: NUS Press.

  • Hudson, Chris. 2013. Beyond the Singapore girl: discourses of gender and nation in Singapore. Copenhagen: NIAS.

  • Zink, Eren. 2013. Hot science, high water: assembling nature, society and environmental policy in contemporary Vietnam. Copenhagen: NIAS.

  • Fischer, Johann. 2008. Proper Islamic consumption: shopping among the Malays in modern Malaysia. Copenhagen: NIAS.

  • Hinton, Alexander Laban. 2005. Why did they kill?: Cambodia in the shadow of the genocide. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Bart Barendregt